The year is 2020, a change is happening. The year is 2020, a revolution is happening”, sang New-York-based singer, No Bra, during the show Andreas Kronthaler For Vivienne Westwood. A few weeks later, amid the worldwide Coronavirus-induced end-of-world frenzy, these words feel prescient. Without the bias of hindsight, an apocalyptic sentiment pervaded the whole of Paris Fashion Week Fall-Winter 2020. Balenciaga had its models, mostly clad in black, stomp through a water-filled runway; Marine Serre’s futuristic vision included face-masks matching those worn by guests (some of which were handed to members of the audience at the entrance before shows); Paco Rabanne’s collection, inspired by historical dress, contained long, gothic-like garments and chainmail headgear.
- THE COLOUR BLACK
In keeping with the somber mood, all-black looks opened virtually all of the shows. For Givenchy, Fran Summers paced along the catwalk, her black oversized hat casting a shadow over most of her face and her pendant mesmerizingly swinging from left to right. For Kenzo, Jan Baiboon wore a similarly black face-obscuring hat with a cape and an oversized tailored ensemble. Black even made its bold appearance in designers least expected. Giambattista Valli, whilst retaining the signature ladylike touch to his looks, incorporated the colour heavily.
- THE CAPE
The cape also made a strong appearance, in particular in Givenchy and Balmain collections, a powerful reminder that nothing commands dominance like the cape.
- THE LATEX LOOK
Regardless of one’s views about the Kardashian-Jenner clan, their role in anticipating, voicing and determining fashion trends cannot be denied. So when Kim Kardashian showcased three Balmain skintight latex ensembles during Paris FW, which debuted on the runway that very week, it became clear that this was a big season for latex in general. Latex was present in every look of Saint Laurent’s Fall-Winter collection. Vaccarello described his inspiration for the collection: ‘the Saint Laurent woman loves to take risks, she wears lace and cashmere with latex.’
The week also exposed designers’ fixation with leather accessories, reminiscent of the 80s biker look: from Valentino’s stunning ruffled leather bags and long leather gloves, to Haider Ackermann’s boots and Miu Miu’s memorable motorbike (or surgical) short-cut gloves.
- THE STRONG SHOULDER
In a similar reimagining of the 80s, designers also kickstarted the new decade with a bold shoulder, whether by shoulder pads, as those observed in Balmain’s latex looks, recurrent simple square-cuts, Balenciaga’s distinctive pointy shoulder blazers or numerous ruffled sleeves.
- THE ‘POWER-SUIT’
Another 80s trend which has made its return yet another year is the ‘power-suit’. Sarah Burton once again proved that the impressive sharp tailoring inherent to Alexander McQueen who had trained on Savile Row, is immutable. There were also charming variations to the suit-look: Chanel graced the runways with adorable blazers intricately-detailed with lace. Altuzarra created elegant suit-skirt pairings and suit-dresses.
This season proved to be yet another vindication of the suit for woman, especially in light of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s collection, the designer often being credited for bring feminism to Dior. Only a day after Harvey Weinstein was convicted, Dior’s show was opened with Ruth Bell’s confident stride in a black pant-suit – a choice of outfit in which the model has declared that she feels most herself – under a series of neon signs: “Consent, Consent, Consent’.
- THE RE-ENVISIONMENT OF TULLE
Paris FW also called our attention to tulle. The fabric has often been associated with the white tutu material of ballerina costumes, and is thus often regarded as the archetypal touch of femininity in the West. Its subversion in compelling statement looks was thus refreshing. Nicolas Ghesquière, in this season’s Louis Vuitton collection created striking tensions through his pairing of tulle with latex finishings and a leather corset. Virgil Abloh too dressed the Hadid sisters in hybrid outfits of tulle-skirt with ruffles and hooded parka jacket, in a turn of tulle meets streetwear.
- THE SHEER DRESS
Last but not least, the sheer dress, made iconic by Marilyn Monroe’s performance of ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’, has in recent months been very much in the vogue. Who could forget Kim Kardashian’s wet Met Gala look or Cardi B’s diamond-bedazzled look at the Grammy Awards? Both of which were designed by Thierry Mugler, Sovereign of Sheer and self-titled architect of the feminine silhouette: ‘I am an architect who completely reinvents a woman’s body’. This season’s Paris Fashion Week, saw many other brands including Dior, Valentino, Y/Project and Ingie Paris also embrace the sheer dress, often showcased with nothing underneath.
From all-black, all-latex, all suited up and caped-up entrances to wholly exposing sheer looks and daring combinations of fabric, this was not a week for the spiritless of fashionistas. This week showed both nostalgia for the 80s, as well as underlying awareness of the momentousness of ‘today’ – its milestones, shifts and calamities.